- Fusion Start Up at MIT Hits Critical Technical Milestone with Superconducting Magnet
- House Science Committee Passes Legislation Making Significant Investments in Fusion Energy
- Chinese Fusion Energy Programs Are A Growing Competitor in the Global Race to Fusion Power
- Site Analysis Proposed for SMR in Puerto Rico
- DOE Building a Bridge to Bankability for Nuclear Energy Through Its Loan Program Office
- U.S. Consultant IP3 to Develop Plan for Nuclear Energy in Poland
Fusion Start Up at MIT Hits Critical Technical Milestone with Superconducting Magnet
(MIT Press Office) Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) and MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) today announced the successful test of the world’s strongest high temperature superconducting (HTS) magnet, the key technology for a device that will unlock the path to clean commercial fusion energy for the world.
The milestone test, conducted at MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center, proved that the magnet built at scale can reach a sustained magnetic field of more than 20 tesla, enough to enable CFS’s compact tokamak device, called SPARC, to achieve net energy from fusion, which is a historic first result.
“This record-breaking magnet is the culmination of the last three years of work and will give the world a clear path to fusion power for the first time,” said Bob Mumgaard, CFS CEO.
“The world needs a fundamentally new technology that will support efforts to decarbonize on a timeline that can mitigate climate change. This test of our magnet proves we have that technology, and we’re on our way to producing clean, limitless energy for the entire world.”
CFS and MIT’s PSFC used new commercially available high temperature superconductors (HTS) to build the magnets that will enable significantly stronger magnetic fields in a fusion device called a tokamak. While existing tokamaks rely on device scale to attempt net energy, HTS magnets enable a high-field approach that will enable CFS to reach net energy from fusion with a device that is substantially smaller, lower cost, and on a faster timeline.
“This groundbreaking magnet opens a widely identified transformational and accelerated opportunity for advancing fusion science and commercial fusion energy,” said Dennis Whyte, Director of MIT’s PSFC and CFS Co-Founder.
CFS has been focusing onmagnet technologies historically used for fusion plants. They announced that they have successfully fabricated a full, plant-sized magnet with high temperature superconductor (“HTS”) material.
This magnet operates at a magnetic field strength significantly higher than current technologies, and is one hundred times larger than previous HTS magnets. Using this material means that power needed to produce the field is very low, compared to other materials. CFS said in a press statement that it has confidence that this magnet will very likely allow the CFS plant being built in Massachusetts to be the world’s first net-energy-out fusion plant.
About the Magnet and Fusion Devices
The core challenge for fusion is making a magnetic field strong enough to contain the reaction, while also generating more energy from the reaction than it takes to run the magnets.
In fusion, two hydrogen atoms fuse, which liberates energy for power and helium, which is not a challenging product for the environment. Both nuclear and fusion do not emit carbon or any other gas emissions. And both nuclear and fusion have advantages over wind, solar and other non-emitting energy types, given you can produce large amounts of energy in very small land footprints that can be located anywhere, and can run every hour of every day.
Tokamaks are donut-shaped devices that use magnets to control and insulate a plasma in which fusion occurs. While no fusion device has yet to achieve net energy from fusion, tokamaks have come the closest with more than 160 tokamaks built and successfully operated around the world.
In the past, tokamaks used low-temperature superconducting magnets that required them to be enormous in size to create the magnetic field needed to attempt to achieve net energy. CFS HTS magnets will enable significantly stronger magnetic fields and as a result significantly smaller tokamaks.
Fusion power plants will have advantages over traditional fossil fueled power plants as they will be carbon-free, dispatchable, have limitless fuel supply, and are inherently safer than other types of electrical generation plants.
This HTS magnet technology will next be used in SPARC, which is under construction in Devens, Massachusetts and on track to demonstrate net energy from fusion by 2025.
CFS was spun out of MIT and combines the decades of research experience of MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center with the innovation and speed of the private sector.
- Video: https://youtu.be/WdoI1X5m96s
- Magnet animation: https://youtu.be/yXLO3-7BRwQ
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House Science Committee Passes Legislation Making Significant Investments in Fusion Energy
On September 9, 2021 the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology passed legislation that would invest in new scientific infrastructure, new clean energy research initiatives, and new innovative demonstration programs. Fusion energy research and development featured strongly in the Committee’s legislation, and there was discussion about fusion’s importance during the markup.
This legislation provides landmark investments into fusion energy over the next decade. In total, the House Science Committee bill includes $2.8 billion for Fusion Energy-related projects and research, including:
- $1.325B for U.S. Contributions to ITER
- $212.3M for the Matter in Extreme Conditions Upgrade Upgrade at SLAC
- $59.2M for the Material Plasma Exposure Experiment
- $250M for Fusion Materials Research and Development
- $140M for Inertial Fusion Research and Development
- $275M for Alternative and Enabling Fusion Energy Concepts
- $325M for the Milestone-Based Fusion Energy Development Program
- $250M for Fusion Reactor System Design
Public / Partnerships
Of particular interest is the addition of $325 million for a public-private partnership program, passed in law as a “Milestone-Based Fusion Energy Development Program” that directs the Secretary of Energy to develop a performance-based cost share program to support the development of fusion energy in the United States.
According to the legislative language, “The purpose of the program shall be to support the development of a U.S.-based fusion power industry through the research and development of technologies that will enable the construction of new full-scale fusion systems capable of demonstrating significant improvements in the performance of such systems within 10 years of the enactment of this section.”
The Fusion Energy Association (FIA) said in a press statement that its members are pleased to see this new investment into fusion energy in the United States. However, FIA also noted that its analysis indicates that the fusion industry could support a program of $1 billion, not $325 million.
FIA added that “a reduced-sized program will only result in missed opportunities for scientific advances, reduced private investment, and the loss of projects to overseas competitors.”
Chinese Fusion Energy Programs Are A Growing Competitor in the Global Race to Fusion Power
China is growing as a hub for active fusion research, as its scientists and entrepreneurs are making significant investments in fusion energy. China has two main fusion enterprises driving scientific advances and investment: the government-funded research based at the Institute of Plasma Physics at the Hefei Institute of Physical Science and the privately-funded fusion research of ENN Group.
In Hefei, government-funded scientists operate the recently-upgraded Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST). The machine is government-funded, through the National Nuclear Corporation, a large state-owned corporation. It cost nearly USD$900 million to build and operate through 2019. Since then, the government has been investing large sums of money into development with there recently being awarded a second tranche of another US$900 million in funding for the project. (See below an estimated timeline for China’s development of a full scale commercial fusion plant.)
In the past year, the EAST device has achieved world records, maintaining a plasma temperature of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds and 160 million Celsius for 20 seconds. These achievements should be seen as a huge success for a fusion device and show the scientific prowess of China’s research teams.
The project is attracting attention among Chinese cities which hope to host construction for the first of a kind facility. At least three Chinese cities are vying to host the world’s first experimental nuclear fusion power station after the country’s government threw its weight behind the ambitious project.
The central government’s imprimatur has now taken it on to the next stage – drawing up the engineering blueprints. Shanghai, mainland China’s financial hub, has been joined by Hefei, the capital of Anhui province, and Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, in the race to win the lucrative project, which, according to some estimates, could cost more than 100 billion yuan (USD$15.2 billion).
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Site Analysis Proposed for SMR in Puerto Rico
(WNN) Consideration of small modular reactors (SMRs) for the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico is advancing to the second stage. Having concluded such a deployment was feasible, the Nuclear Alternative Project (NAP) is now looking at siting requirements.
Speaking at World Nuclear Association’s Annual Symposium yesterday, Eddie Guerra of NAP said the results of a study currently underway “will help to move the discussion how the sites will fit and how they will align with the mini grids already planned.”
Applying the requirements of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NAP has so far identified two potential sites. One lies on the island’s north coast near an industrial hub; the other on its east coast at the former Roosevelt Roads Naval Station. Guerra said the ongoing study “aims to develop a list of suitable sites with ranking and plant parameter envelopes for Puerto Rico.” (See map below)
It follows a conclusion made in a NAP study last year that SMRs are feasible in the Puerto Rican context. The assessment was made according to International Atomic Energy Agency criteria.
Key to the analysis is Puerto Rico’s energy strategy, which is to rebuild from the damage of 2017’s Hurricane Maria in a more resilient way by creating a web of micro grids. Some 3000 MWe of the island’s 3247 MWe of operable power units will be replaced by 2025, with solar energy expected to take an ever-increasing share of generation.
However, the dynamics of island grids are challenging for solar. Puerto Rico has a steady level of demand at around 2500 MWe, with peaks of around 3000 MWe. Last year’s NAP feasibility study said only nuclear reactors can complement the intermittency of renewable power sources with zero-emission baseload power generation.
At the same time, a high degree of flexibility to load follow would be required from any units joining a solar-dominated grid. Also, energy prices remain high – around 19 cents per kWh whereas the price in most US states is in the range of 9-11 cents per kWh.
DOE Building a Bridge to Bankability for Nuclear Energy Through Its Loan Program Office
(WNN) (click on link to read full report – long) The private sector must be prepared to provide the funds needed to take new and innovative reactor technologies from the first deployment stage to wide-scale commercial operation, Jigar Shah, director of the Loans Program Office (LPO) at the US Department of Energy, said during World Nuclear Association’s Annual Symposium. He said the LPO is developing the business models needed to deploy new nuclear.
Shah noted that the Biden-Harris Administration has put a focus on scaling up commercial deployment of the next generation of nuclear power technology, including smaller and more flexible advanced reactor designs and on the advanced fuels that will be needed to operate them.
“With these new innovative technologies (such as small modular reactors (SMRs) and microreactors), when combined with innovations in manufacturing, product delivery models and innovations in financing led by the LPO, utilities and other potential buyers of nuclear power plants can once again begin to order new units for deployment.”
He added, “In addition to new, technically-ready designs, we need to consider how government and private industry can work together on new approaches – both technically and from a business execution approach.”
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U.S. Consultant IP3 to Develop Plan for Nuclear Energy in Poland
The cooperation between the parties will result in the development of a plan for the fast introduction of nuclear power to Poland.
- IP3 will be ZE PAK’s main advisor in the process.
- The firm also announced that Georgette Mosbacher, a former U.S. Ambassador to Poland, has joined the IP3 team and management board.
The joint effort will help to develop projects, plan implementation and secure permits from relevant authorities and institutions, including American, and from Polish and international institutions, as may be required.
The cooperation may also cover aspects of the acquisition of approvals from supervising and regulatory bodies in the countries which will be supplying the respective technologies and especially long lead time components and systems that will be exported to Poland from these countries. The parties will work together on the development of the Implementation and Financing Plan to define the requirements and then order specific solutions.
“Nuclear power will play the key role in the global energy mix. We want the highly industrialized countries to be able to tap on the existing technologies and to effectively pursue the climatic goals set for 2040,” said Michael Hewitt, Co-Founder and CEO of IP3.
“The plan, which will be among others implemented by the private sector, will enable Poland to successfully enter the demanding market and migrate to hydrogen and nuclear technologies.”
Former US Ambassador on Board
Georgette Mosbacher, a former U.S. Ambassador to Poland, has joined the IP3 board. “We are excited to announce that former U.S. Ambassador Georgette Mosbacher has joined the board of IP3 and will lead our efforts in Poland,” said Michael Hewitt.
“Nuclear technologies are the key element which can offer Poland, as well as the remaining member countries of the Three Seas Initiative, a sufficient volume of clean energy. Poland’s long-term energy security also requires the presence of the private sector in this sphere, along with a plan for supporting innovation in the field of nuclear power systems,” said Amb. Georgette Mosbacher.
Mr. Zygmunt Solorz, one of the biggest and most important private entrepreneurs in Poland, and a majority shareholder of ZE PAK said:
“Poland, its inhabitants and economy need clean and cheap energy, and this can be provided in a short time with the use of nuclear technologies. Nuclear power projects, regardless of whether they are planned in Poland or abroad, must deal with complex regulatory issues and political circumstances. That is why we have turned to IP3, a renowned American consulting firm, for assistance in the project. We count on the cooperation to help us arrive at the right decisions in the areas in which we have no expertise. I am glad that ZE PAK will be cooperating with IP3 and that our project will be supported by Georgette Mosbacher.”
Ending Production of Electricity from Coal
Last year ZE PAK announced that it would end the production of electricity from coal by 2030.
“It is the most ambitious and the most concrete of the de-carbonization declarations which have been made by Polish power engineering companies. ZE PAK is already developing projects related to the production of clean and green energy, such as a hydrogen economy, wind farms or the recently completed largest solar farm in Poland” – said Piotr Woźny, the CEO of ZE PAK.
ZE PAK is currently involved in various initiatives associated with nuclear technologies which can offer clean and affordable energy for Poland. There is also a plan of using nuclear power for the production of hydrogen to improve various branches of the economy.
About ZE PAK
Zespó Elektrowni Ptnów – Adamów – Konin SA (ZE PAK) is Poland’s second-largest producer of electricity from brown coal, involved for decades in the production of electricity from lignite mined in the surrounding open-pit mines. Last year, ZE PAK announced its exit from coal-fired power generation by 2030. Since 2012 the company has been listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange. (About the Company)
IP3 is a specialized enterprise operating in the areas of planning, development, financing, and operations of new nuclear energy projects. IP3 and its partner Minard Capital have mapped a global investor network representing USD$2.8 trillion of investable capital with clean energy as a primary investment focus. (Management team and Board of Directors)
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